I doubt it's a question that academia can answer because ultimately it's not really a "problem" that can be "solved", it's a conflict of interest that can only be resolved if the respective parties agree to a resolution.
Like ultimately it's about whether you respect someone else's request not to use a word regardless of circumstances or whether you don't. That's a decision that you make. And the reasons why that person doesn't want you to use that word are subjective, so you'd need to negotiate that with that respective person on a case by case basis. Or if it's a notion expressed by a group with that group.
Sure you can attempt to generalize that the usage of a term is not offensive, but it would be incredibly tone deaf and condescending to tell other people what THEY should and shouldn't find offensive, like that question is theirs to answer, not yours.
You could formulate edge cases for that, like if language is being censored to the point where you lose expressive power you might side with ignoring the request, if there are alternative words that express the same concept or even express it better without additional baggage you might side with respecting the request or if the word is a literal trigger event for an emotional reaction you might in that situation opt to respect the request. Like if the word "sugar powder" articulated near microphone triggers nuclear Armageddon you might not want to use it despite there's absolutely nothing wrong with using these 2 words in almost any other context.
And whether it is or isn't a trigger is again something that can only be answered by those for whom it is a trigger. You can't assume that, you might not even be able to rationalize it as they might not be able to rationalize that either you could only chose to respect or not respect that request.
To be frank about it, I do not understand the notion of people that claim the word itself is problematic. Like you could imagine a language where the physical articulation of a pattern of speech physically hurts you (like a high pitches screech or whatnot) or where the word itself expresses a concept like idk if the name of your group idk "philosophers" would literally be comprised of the words for "bullshit thinkers" or something like that, so where the insult is literally part of the word.
The n-word is neither. The n-word, on a literal level, just means "black" and it's not by itself hurtful to say. The insulting hurtful part stems pretty much entirely from it's context and usage. In that it only makes sense in the context of white supremacy in which being black itself is an insult and used with hatred and contempt and the intent to impress a notion of inferiority to the other person.
What is special about it is most likely it's ubiquitous and continued usage throughout a large period of time and space. So that it projects it's own context in the sense that you don't use it unless you're a white supremacist and using it is itself a statement of hatred and contempt up to a direct threat to someone's well being.
Now while in direct communication any word for that matter could be used as a drop-in replacement for the n-word, as it's not about the word but about the context, seriously calling someone a "hamster" while giving off vibes of intimidation would trigger a similar result. That would be a localized phenomena and other people wouldn't be in on the meaning so it would lose a lot of it's power compared to being faced with what might seem to be a giant monolith.
So in other words it needs time, shared memory and continued usage in the public discourse for such a word to enter common knowledge so banning such a word completely sets racists back to square one, just that ideally now they lack the control over the public narrative and the systemic power that they used to have. Meaning it could actually make a difference. Because now people who still use the term stick out like a sore thumb, while if a term is normalized you'd create an image where racists appear much more numerous then they might actually be and where bystanders might assume "just a miscommunication" rather than a deliberate act of hostility when the word is used thereby enforcing that image and enabling abuse.
However that can also make the use/mention distinction difficult because that also sticks out, intended or not. And despite mentioning not being usage in terms of applying it to hurt people, it's still normalizing the usage of the term. And getting people accustomed to people saying racist shit to harden them against being shocked by that, isn't necessarily a great idea either as you might also harden yourself against feeling empathy for people on the receiving end as you no longer feel it to be shocking and problematic.
On the other end, if these cases in the article are true it seems pretty ridiculous that people who do not act racist, explicitly position themselves against it and whatnot, should lose their jobs over quotes and mentions. If those were accurate descriptions and not omitted crucial details that seems excessive and counter productive. Especially while simultaneously racism itself and the racist language surrounding these terms is apparently still treated as free speech and not seen as problematic or producing similar levels of outrage as the more catchy use of bad terminology. So that it appears to be treating symptoms rather than root causes.
But apparently this fixation and censorship of words seems to be a cultural thing in the U.S. where there seems to be a whole alphabet of words your not supposed to say and where the words themselves are treated as powerful. So it's probably only fitting to attempt to add racial slurs on that list as it's already culturally accepted to not use these words.